FAA returns 37 fights on flights to FBI as cases increase
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Thursday it referred more than three dozen unruly passengers to the FBI for potential criminal charges amid a surge in incidents on board this year.
The FAA and the Justice Department said they have established an information-sharing protocol that allows the FAA to refer unruly passenger cases to the FBI for review.
The Justice Department and the FBI “are committed to prioritizing the review of cases referred by the FAA and initiating criminal prosecution where appropriate,” the agencies said.
U.S. airlines have reported a record number of disruptive and sometimes violent incidents this year, and the FAA has pledged to take a “zero tolerance” approach. The FAA and the Justice Department have said that “the increased coordination is part of a larger effort to prevent dangerous incidents of unruly passengers.”
An FAA spokesperson said the agency launched 227 enforcement cases and referred 37 of them to the FBI for review.
“Let this serve as both a warning and a deterrent: If you disrupt a flight, you risk not only FAA fines, but federal criminal prosecution as well,” FAA Administrator Steve Dickson said.
On October 8, President Joe Biden said he had asked the Justice Department to “handle” the growing number of violent incidents on planes.
FBI Acting Deputy Director Jay Greenberg said the agency “works in tandem with our partners to ensure the safety of all passengers and to investigate crimes within our jurisdiction on commercial flights.”
As of November 1, there have been 5,033 reports of unruly passenger incidents, including 3,642 related to pandemic face covering regulations.
In June, a group representing major U.S. airlines, such as American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines, as well as aviation unions, called on the Justice Department to prosecute violent air passengers.
FAA and Justice Department officials began meeting in August “to develop an effective method to refer the most serious unruly passenger cases for potential criminal prosecution,” the agencies said, adding that “a resulted in a process in which the FAA routinely sends cases to the FBI, which forwards those that merit potential prosecution to field offices for further investigation.
On Monday https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-charges-passenger-with-assaulting-american-airlines-flight-attendant-2021-11-01, U.S. prosecutors in Colorado indicted an elderly Californian man assaulted a flight attendant on an Oct. 27 American Airlines flight to Santa Ana, Calif., which forced the plane to land.
Witnesses and court records said a flight attendant was punched in the nose, resulting in bleeding and concussion. American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker called it “one of the worst manifestations of unruly behavior we’ve ever seen.”
(Reporting by David Shepardson. Editing by Gerry Doyle)
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